The Bear Etiquette Site
bear cub in Little Yosemite Valley
This site last updated 07.21 2015

Brooks Falls -
Katmai National Park, Alaska
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  Because some bears, as a result of their interaction with human kind, can become very skillful at finding and eating human food. They may develop into "problem bears", as referred to by authorities and lay people alike. Which often may lead to punitive action by authorities including relocation & occasionally and unfortunately the bears ultimate demise.

"A fed bear is a dead bear".

  Here is some basic information, on proper back country bear (Make that human) etiquette.

R.T. Arnold
R.T. Arnold

  Having Backpacked hundreds of trail miles in the Sierras, and large portions of the Yosemite back country.

The best information I have found, through my extensive research and practical wilderness experience including several, face to face, first hand encounters, suggests that most bears (Specifically Black Bears) are mainly hungry opportunists, just looking for a few "easy" calories to sustain them through their long winter hibernation period.

  Pay particular attention if you may be in an area where Brown Bears or Polar Bears may be found, as these species are known to present a higher risk of danger to humans.

  Remember that bears represent the top of the local food chain, including HUMANS. It's their home; you're visiting. I hope the following tips help you behave like a proper guest.

The best rule of thumb is
and they will reciprocate.


Proper food storage is essential.

      • Do plan ahead obtain and carry "Bear Spray" learn the proper way to use it!
      • Do read your wilderness permits about local conditions.
      • Do use only approved methods of food storage.good example of the tree hanging technique
      • Do some homework on proper food storage techniques. & buy or rent a bear can if backpacking.
      • Do store your garbage & toilet items with your food in separate containers and use an approved method of storage Ie. a bear can.
      • Do use "bear boxes" in camp sites or "cans" when in the backcountry or while camping in the widerness (Now required in Yosemite.) or try the cables/poles available in the more popular wilderness camping sites.

      • Do follow the written instructions in your Wilderness Permit and information package for proper storage techniques. When obtaining your wilderness permits, ask local authorities what the requirements are in the areas you'll be seeing.
      • Do speak to the local rangers about bear activity in the area you plan to visit. These people have the information you need, listen carefully and follow their directions.
      • Do where ever possible prepare all meals well away from your camps sleeping area, at least 100 ft.
      • Do speak to the local rangers first & where permitted, carry pepper spray if they advise you. Information on pepper spray.
      • Do learn how to proplerly use bear spray.
      • Hiking While Menstruating?

      • Short answer: No. There is no evidence to suggest that bears are attracted to menstruating women. Many moons ago, on August 13, 1967, two women were attacked in Glacier National Park by grizzlies and there was speculation about menstruation being the cause. Many subsequent studies confirmed that there is no link. Bottom line: Bears are much more attracted to the smell of your peanut butter and chicken a la king, than your period.

        The Truth About Bears: The Skills (Backpacker Magazine)
        Bottom Line Carry Pepper Spray!

        Excellent Source for
        "PEPPER SPRAY"



    • Don't try to get a "closer look" by approaching a bear.
    • Never try to corner a bear for any reason.
    • Never attempt to feed a wild bear. (Or any wild animals). Remember a fed bear is a dead bear!
    • Never leave your food unattended or stored improperly, for even the briefest of times, (i.e. your backpack or food sack).
    • Don't and don't leave excess food in your vehicle. Prepare any food, or leave any garbage or items with strong odors, (i.e. toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, fishing tackle, bait etc.) in or around your campsite.
    • Don't keep snacks in your tent, even gum.
    • Wherever possible particularly in Yosemite, use the food lockers provided & never store food in your vehicle. If you must leave food in your vehicle put it in the trunk or cover it. Generally out of sight is out of mind. (Some areas even this won't be sufficient)


Keep a cool head at all times
      • If there are 2 or more of you, stand close together to appear more imposing.
      • Make loud noises, such as shouting "No Bear" or clanging Pots and Pans together.
      • Keep a good supply of rocks handy in camp.
        (Near your tent door at night).
      • Defend your food stores. It only encourages bears to pilfer if you don't.
      • Throw rocks near the bears. Do not try to hit or hurt the bears!
      • Report any bear encounters to the proper authorities. (I.e. park/forest ranger, game warden etc.).


    • Don't try to get a "closer look" by approaching a bear. Particularly if attempting a photo opportunity.(Use a zoom lens.)
    • Don't turn your back or run. (You'll look like food)!

    • Never try to recover your food from a bear once they have gotten into it.
      • Again try to keep a cool head at all times.
      • Yell for help, it may be closer than you think.
      • If you're in a group stand close together to apear as large and imposing as possible.
      • Stand your ground some bears may try a "Bluff Charge".

      • If the bear continues to approach this is a good time to throw a good sized rock or stick toward the bear.

      • Lastly only as a last resort, stop drop and cover your neck just like the civil defense drill you learned in school.
      • Most of your vitals are easier to get to from the front so stay on your stomach. Roll back to your stomach if the bear turns you over and lie flat. If you have a backpack on that can help protect your vitals.
      • If the bear persists, and only as a last resort, resist with all your might. Try to grab a stick or a rock, a knife or whatever you have, and fight for your life. Your survival could depend on your fiercenes.
      • How to Escape From a Bear
      • How to survive a black bear attack


Bear Facts for Yosemite National Park

Please read this article
written by one of the world's formost authorities
on bear behavior

Bear Hibernation

Bears average only 1 breath per minute with a heart rate of 8-10 beats per minute in hibernation.


Follow these links to learn more
about bears & behavior.

“As marginal farmlands have been abandoned, black bears have moved back into those habitats,” says Stephen Herrero, a leading bear researcher at the University of Calgary and author of the required-reading Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance.

The Best By Far
Bear Information Site Around click here!

Black Bear Biology & Behavior

Center for Wildlife Information

USFS Bear Safety

Bear in Mind: What to Do to Avoid a Bear Attack

Glacier National Park bear information.

Bear Box Locations in the Sierras

Polar Bear Safety

North American Bear Center


Smokey the bear

Bear safety for kids in Alaska

Beare Safety Boy Scout Style

All About California's Black Bear

Buy this book @Amazon.comBear Attacks
Stephen Herrero is a leading authority on bears and bear attacks.
I would recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in bear behavior.
Buy this book @Amazon.comBear Aware
Synopsis:This handy pack sized book contains the essential tips. It's written for beginners and experts as well.
Buy this book @Amazon.comBear Basics
Synopsis:Offers detailed, comprehensive
& practical information on how to travel and camp safely in bear country.

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This site is intended only as a general, common sense information resource. We assume no responsibility for errors or omissions in this information. assumes no responsibility for any injuries or property damage resulting from any human-bear interactions.
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